Star Wars Land — The Next Step in Disney Immersion
Recently at the Star Wars Celebration of 2017, Disney took to the stage to discuss further developments regarding the future implementations of Star Wars properties in the United States theme parks. Specifically, WDI opened up to the public to discuss a few important details that will be found within the “land” when it opens in 2019.
One of the cornerstones of Star Wars Land is the Millennium Falcon attraction, in which guests will board the falcon in small groups to engage upon a galaxy wide journey that rivals the events of the films. Commanding the most popular ship in the Star Wars mythos, guests will have to work together to either complete the mission at hand, or fail trying. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because another attraction ran on the same premise, that being Mission: Space. Guests have to maintain the positions they are given, performing actions as simple as pressing a button when asked to in order to complete the mission and land safely on Mars. To anyone who has been on the ride, it is quite obvious that these choices mean nothing. Guests can ride the attraction without pressing a single button and achieve the same outcome as any other group. Guests are essentially pretending to play a part in the narrative, albeit an unimportant one.
However, on this Millennium Falcon attraction, guest’s actions will have actual impact on their experience in Star Wars Land. As noted in previous summaries of Star Wars Land, the story basis of the expansion revolves around a spaceport in the Star Wars universe that serves as a location in which guests will be met with various locations and cultures from the films. For example, the main dining option is a cantina similar to that in Tatooine. Blue milk, the cantina band, varieties of intergalactical cultures, scum, and villainy define the recreation of Star Wars that fans seek.
Here is where we make a clear distinction between Tourism and Citizenship.
Take Pandora: The World of Avatar for example. The story that WDI developed centers around the fact that guests will be visiting the world of the Na’vi. Greeted by a head shaymin of the Na’vi, and following the orders of the Na’vi people, guests find themselves mere visitors of this world rather than inhabitants. The main attraction, other than the soarin’-esque Banshee tour, is the slow boat tour throughout the home of the Na’vi. Guests embark on a river journey that encompasses large stretches of land and attempts to deliver the beauty of the Na’vi people. Describing the Pandora experience involves the understanding that guests of Animal Kingdom are strictly visiting Pandora, not residing within it. The experience ends the second you leave the park and can only resume on your next trip to the world of Pandora.
But Star Wars Land attempts to take another route to attain the immersion standard that Disney Parks hold. Rather than take guests through a tour of the world of Star Wars, WDI wants to place them into the shoes of inhabitants of the universe. Entering the newly discovered planet causes guests to leave their past lives behind, taking on a new life. Quite literally a new life. Let me explain.
As guests enter the Millennium Falcon in small groups, each individual is tasked with a task to complete which will determine the outcome of the attraction. It is possible that the group will proceed to hyperspace as planned, or even suffer a crash landing, rendering the mission a failure. This variability in process will mimic the random nature of destinations on Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, but the impact will extend even further.
Before going into detail, it should be noted that guest individuality has been used on Star Wars attractions previously. On Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, guests are sometimes randomly chosen to be defined as a “rebel spy”, and become the basis of the ride’s plot. Once one of the audience members are defined as the spy, C3PO and the rest of the passengers must ensure their safe return to the head of the rebellion. Introducing the connection to the guests further implants them into the world of Star Wars, the main goal of immersion.
When guests exit the Millennium Falcon attraction, their aforementioned choices will follow them throughout their day. Assuming that the attraction will connect these choices to each guests RFID chips in their MagicBands, the world around them will change to fit the narrative that had developed following the ride experience. At the Star Wars Celebration, WDI mentioned a few examples of how the world may change. For instance, if guests get on the bad side of a group of bounty hunters such as Boba Fett and Bossk on the attraction, they may come looking for them on their next visit to the Cantina. In addition, actions on the attraction can lead to guests becoming persons of interests for the species that inhabit the planet. Droids can track you down using the RFID chip in the MagicBand, and ask questions or force decisions that will follow you for the rest of your stay.
Introducing an aspect of individuality to each guests’ experience will make Star Wars Land more significant. People will feel ingrained into the world of Star Wars, meeting with famous characters as well as sharing in their experiences. Fans of Star Wars have for years attempted to change their life to better match the reality of the film through costume and role playing, and the new aspects of Star Wars Land will further assist in these dreams. New, more detailed lightsabers that were announced at the Star Wars Celebration will continue to develop this immersion.
Continued efforts to individualize the Disney experience, especially when placing guests into familiar settings, is an easy way to draw more people to the parks matched with price hikes. The technology necessary for these innovations are much more tasking than those currently in the parks, but continuing to improve the individual experience is a surefire way to capture the attention of guests in order to increase park attendance rates.
If anything draws guests to the parks, it’s the opportunity of seeing their favorite intellectual properties developed in real life. The thrill of seeing your favorite characters in the real world, and engaging on the adventures that make the property famous are two of the most important aspects that draw customers to the Disney Parks. The new expansion of Star Wars into the park relies on both of these, plus the development of a new reputation based immersion system that takes the next step in user controlled entertainment experiences.
These new details serve as small examples that WDI is attempting to make people feel as if they are living a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Ryan Dorman is a Columnist for the Boardwalk Times.